Joseph Pine and James Gilmore authored a reknowned textbook called "The Experience Economy; Work is Theater and Every Business is a Stage". A fundamental call to action from this book is that in any industry where a product or service is commoditised then "Experience Matters". You may recall this being the tagline chosen by Macromedia as the phrase "Rich Internet Application" was coined, capturing the zeitgeist behind the importance of Rich Internet Applications as an enabling technology for more effective online experiences.
Pine and Gilmore identify a timeline for economies; we first moved from an agricultural economy where essentially goods are taken from the land to a manufacturing economy that brings mass-production and distribution techniques to these goods. The next major shift was that to a service economy, where we deliver value-added services upon these manufactured goods.
However, as goods and services themselves become commoditised as competition prevails, then the next economy within which an organisation can prosper is the "experience economy". In an experience economy, companies can emerge as leaders by staging experiences that are individual to each of their customers in an inherently personal way. Simply offering goods and services is not enough. The classic analogy is that of Starbucks – from the coffee bean (agricultural economy) to the jar of coffee (the manufacturing economy) to the local coffee shop (service economy) to creating an holistic experience that encourages customers to engage for longer with your brand, and to pay more in doing so (Starbucks stores).
So what’s the relevance to user-experience disruption ? I believe that Rich Internet Applications continue to be an enabling technology with which organisations can deliver these experiences, where these experiences can be made personal, and where the experience can differentiate one online organisation from another delivering the same goods or services.
However; it’s no longer the biggest that eats the smallest, it’s the fastest that eats the slowest – and by leveraging enabling technologies like Rich Internet Applications, by putting innovation at the heart of a strategy for an organisation, there is opportunity to enter a rapidly commoditised marketplace and indeed deliver an experience that drives the final nail in the coffin of commoditisation.
I believe that Rich Internet Applications are necessary, but not sufficient for creating innovative experiences for customers. While many will endlessly debate, analyse, trial and consider the technical impact that rich-client technologies may have on their internal infrastructures, debate the merits of one markup language over another, or whether one technology is capable of delivering the same level of interactivity as another technology, those who have the agility to pick and embrace a technology and instead focus on the techniques and disciplines that will allow them to create innovative customer-centric experiences upon these technologies, have the pace and appetite to disrupt and displace the larger providers who for so long have produced the goods and services that their experiences will commoditise.
I’ll look at a few examples in some upcoming posts.
What do you think ? Are there goods or services that you are now consuming from new-entrants to the market, who are providing a personal, value-added experience that demonstrates understanding of your needs, rather than of the underlying product ? Or are there goods and services you desparately would like to see commoditised with more useful and personal experiences ?
Do you see an opportunity for experience innovation ? Do Rich Internet Application technologies support the delivery of these experiences ?